Zimkids Orphan Trust

Zimkids Orphan Trust is a neighborhood-based safe haven for orphaned children in impossible circumstances. We are committed to ensuring that the children and their caregivers have access to food and medical care, as well as creative, recreational, vocational and educational opportunities and training in the tools essential for self-reliance so they can grow into productive, healthy adults who are literate, energized, assertive and ready to take initiative for themselves, their families and their community.
Nov 6, 2012

November Update 2012

Let me start this update with some general comments:

Things have been very tough in Zimbabwe over the past several months. Last year’s drought pushed up the price of food yet again, and this year’s forecast is for more of the same. The World Food Program is warning of widespread hunger. The drought also left the city in a water crisis that led first to cut-offs of water every other day, then for 72 hours at a time and now for 96 hours off, 24 on. Unfortunately, our new well went dry, so we’ve been scrambling for both water and food.

Nonetheless, we’re thriving. After almost two years of frantic activity to get our new Center built and the programs redesigned to our new realities, we’re finally settling in to a routine. With our own site, and since Pumula schools are on two shifts, we are able to meet with our young people daily. The trainees who built the new facility with Dennis and Tinashe are now managing the Center programs. They are running daily tutoring programs in our library, especially for the teenagers currently sitting their high school graduation examinations. Foster, who is running sports programs, has recruited the older kids to help him build an obstacle course. Tinashe is leading everyone through the complexities of computers, starting, literally from the inside (of the machine) out. And Sithabisiwe and Collin have just completed a First Aid training course and are getting our clinic up and running.

We are about to bring in a group of younger orphans, preschoolers, because we are seeing too many young children wandering the neighborhood without supervision or stimulation – and with dangerously swollen bellies. We’ve recently dealt with a case of full-blown malnutrition with Fiona, a 13 year old who is HIV positive, so we’ve become even more sensitive to signs of serious hunger.

Our big news is that starting on November 1, we’ll be competing in the Girl Effect Challenge sponsored by Nike and Global Giving. It is going to be our toughest challenge since the winning charities will be those with the greatest number of individual donors, not the largest total amount of donations. We’re aiming for 1000, and if we prevail, we’ll be in good shape for funding a special training program for girls that will result in a series of microenterprises that we’ll eventually spin-off for the girls themselves to run and own.

It is enormously important because once girls hit 16 or 17, their caregivers want to marry them off as soon as possible, usually to older men, those most likely to abuse them, to want polygamous marriages and to be HIV positive. So we’d be really grateful if you could throw a bit into the pot at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/building-girls-futures/

A $10 donation counts as much as a $500 donation!

Now, an update on our caregiver program: We’ve reserved Wednesdays for meetings with them. We have a lawyer coming in to teach them about everything from property rights to the importance of wills, a physician to talk about basic medical needs, and we’re even teaching them how to use computers.

A wonderful foundation in New York that ships books and other educational materials to Zimbabwe has offered us some container space, and we have been frantically searching for donations of reading glasses to ship over. They’re coming, although slowly.

Their greatest interest, of course, is finding ways to make money. And that’s where the container space is an enormous boon. We’ve received a donation of four very good sewing machines that we hope will be the basis of a small business making school uniforms, which are always in demand. And we’re trying to develop plans for several other small businesses that can provide them with some income.

Overall, we’re feeling very confident that we can build this program into one that will provide the caregivers with significant support. The workshop with the lawyer, for example, was provoked when the grandfather of one of our children died without a will. Since the home was in his name alone, his wife could not inherit it. The relatives who did, kicked her and the orphan out. It was then that we realized the importance of teaching everyone how critical a will is. As we work more closely with the caregivers, we know that we’ll keep learning about their problems so that we can respond more effectively to their needs.

 

None of this is possible without you. So, thank you!

Links:

Aug 30, 2012

Zimkids Update August 2012

Home: Built by Orphans, Run by orphans for orphans
Home: Built by Orphans, Run by orphans for orphans

 As you might have noticed, we updated our GlobalGiving project page to reflect that Zimkids now has a new home.  We are happily and productively operating out of our new building. We worked 7 days a week for the last few months to open on July 31st. We’ve entered a whole new era – thanks to so many of you.  You can see the project in a 2 minute slideshow by going to https://www.vimeo.com/47694837.

Now that we have land, along with a greenhouse and drip irrigation system, we can produce much of the food the orphans we serve require – along with training in modern agricultural techniques using little water or fertilizer. Our goal, after all, has never been to foster dependency. While we will continue to provide them with staple foods, we are encouraging them to work with our staff to grow the vegetables and – later -fruit that will add such critical nutrition to their starch-heavy diet. Our donations for kale will be used for seed or soy protein.  We are ending beef distribution because meat inspection is now untrustworthy because of corruption.

We’ve been able to improve our educational programs substantially. In addition to paying school fees, we will be offering tutoring in our own resource center, a library and a fantastic computer center that will allow the children to enter the 21st century in style. Our old Council of Elders, who “graduated” into Seniors, and who built our center and who will now be referred to as Staff will receive ongoing training in first aid, counseling, management, accounts which in a year’s time they will pass on to our next generation of Seniors.

Our staff members are receiving basic first aid and minor medical training so that they can work with our physicians.

We’re also expanding the on-the-job vocational training we gave to the Seniors with training in metalwork (take a look at the phenomenal metal shields that hold up our computer desks – we’re already offering similar ones for sale!) And our center is entirely powered by solar energy!

With our new space, we have been able to broaden our recreational activities to include netball, which is popular with the girls, an obstacle course which under the guidance of Foster Dingani, one of our exceptional Seniors, will build the obstacle course as a carpentry training program for the older children, and board games for rainy days, in addition to our old programs in performing arts, visual arts, and soccer. If you take a peak at the slide show you will see the murals on the walls that surround the Center, you’ll see the work of our amazing new art teacher, Shaka, who is currently working with the children to design and paint murals on the inside of the walls.

Finally, we’re making a serious push on special training for our girls, who are growing up in a society where rape is an epidemic, families press for early marriage to gain access to cash (since the husband needs to pay for the privilege of marriage), sanitary napkins are expensive, and obedience is prized. Two of our trainees who built the new center are young women, and they are taking the lead in designing programs to help teach the younger women and girls the lesson that they have learned about protecting themselves, the value of saying NO, and standing up for their rights. They will be bolstered by a nurse who will teach them about family planning and reproductive health.

You can visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/zimkids or our website, currently being updated to see photos of the project. Our website is currently being updated.

Stay tuned, please. We have already been widely recognized as one of the most innovative orphan projects in Africa, and we’re just getting going to show what can be accomplished by a center built by orphans and run by orphans for orphans.

I am in the States until I return to Zimbabwe in December and have lots of frequent flyer miles if you or your organization would like to host Zimkids for fundraising events.  Wherever possible we can set up skype video conferences with our kids and yours bridging the miles and bringing the smiles to opposite sides of the globe!

Washie tutoring English in new resource center
Washie tutoring English in new resource center
Shaka with his art class
Shaka with his art class
Kids preparing new beds for Chimulia (Kale)
Kids preparing new beds for Chimulia (Kale)
Lunch is served!
Lunch is served!
Celebrating the completion of our Center!
Celebrating the completion of our Center!

Links:

Aug 7, 2012

Final Update August 2012

View of center
View of center

Thanks to scores of extremely generous donors, the Adrian Suskin Center for Zimkids is up and running. More photos and the latest news can be found on our facebook page search Zimkids Orphan Trust or our website www.zimkids.com. Let's start, then, with a tour:

The site is 2.5 acres, located right next to the local high school donated to us by the City of Bulawayo. Because security is a major problem all across the city, we walled in the entire plot – and kept the part facing the street from looking dreary with a series of murals.

Now, come inside:

The first building to your left is the lime green cottage that is home to Washington, who provides our security and will run our Library, and an office. Follow the brick path and you reach the heart of the complex. To the left, is our Light Blue Resource Center, where we will house our library, our games, and serve as the heart of our activities. Two small rooms are walled off, one to serve as a kitchen and the other as our clinic. The top of the Resource Center will hold our solar panels, which just arrived and are about to be installed. Around back, on a small patio, we built a massive table so that dozens of children can work, play and eat together.

Across from the Resource Center, you come to our amazing orange Tech Center, which will house the 15 computers we purchased to train our children and their caregivers in modern technology and, eventually, to provide Internet access to the surrounding community. One corner of the building holds a safe room where the computers will be kept at night and where our inverters and solar batteries will be kept safe as well. Our purple lavatories are to the left of the tech center.

Now, outside: First, take a look at our wonderful swing set, seesaw and merry-go-round, gifts from a local drilling company. Beyond, you reach the gazebo where the children can perform for themselves and their families. Next, you come to our sports fields, which are graded and ready for goal posts for soccer and a net for netball. Swinging around the property, you reach our greenhouse and garden, which use drip irrigation. The vegetables will serve the needs of our children and their caregivers, with the surplus for sale. Finally, you come to the toilet block, with separate facilities for boys and girls.

As most of you know, we didn't just build a Center, we also trained a group of young people who joined Zimkids when they were still small. Now out of school, they dug and poured the foundations, laid the block, plastered, painted, installed windows, welded shields and railings, installed all the electric wiring and solar panels, landscaped and painted. This is their Center – built by Zimbabwean orphans, run by orphans FOR Zimbabwean orphans! Our Seniors, Foster, Sithabisiwe, Collen and Thandiwe received Certificates of Completion of our 18 month construction training program.  They now move on to training in all areas of management to run the center. 

We're not done, of course: We have plans to raise chickens both to feed our kids and to earn money. We're hoping to plant fruit trees for our own mini-orchard. We need more books for our library, a few more solar panels, and a bit more furniture – and we plan to use the extra money we raised to cover some of those costs.

But the bottom line is that WE HAVE A HOME – and we are immensely grateful to all of you for making it possible!

Interior of Tech Cntr, Zulu Shields & Tonga Stools
Interior of Tech Cntr, Zulu Shields & Tonga Stools
Zimkids playing on Merry-go-round
Zimkids playing on Merry-go-round
Interior Resource Cntr hanging world on a string
Interior Resource Cntr hanging world on a string
Performance Gazebo for acting, dancing and singing
Performance Gazebo for acting, dancing and singing
Celebrating the completion of our Center!
Celebrating the completion of our Center!

Links:

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